Saturday, May 12, 2012

Under the sea... down where it's better.

May 1st -7th, 2012:

The month of May began in Puerto Galera, Mindoro at language training camp. Peace Corps separated the language trainings by region so there were nine volunteers who met together in Puerto to enhance and practice or Tagalog skills. We stayed at a place called Stairway Foundation. This foundation is owned by a Danish man (I can’t remember his name) and operated by many other enthusiastic people that work together to help educate others about Child’s Rights. The foundation has many goals- primarily to take streets kids from the major cities (like Manila) and bring them to a safe place where they can interact, explore, learn, grow and hopefully create a better life for themselves.

Language training was intense but definitely not as intense as it was during initial training. It was actually a relief that I could follow a Tagalog lesson for 8 hrs in one day- guess that is a good sign my Tagalog is improving. I definitely still have a lot to work on but I like knowing that I am more comfortable speaking Tagalog to well, anyone really. There are a lot of times where the switch to Tagalog just comes naturally now. I get request more classroom vocabulary. On a standard day in the classroom my counterpart and I only speak Tagalog; however, some basic things are good to store in my memory just in case I need to clarify something to get the students back on the learning road.

On the third day of classes we actually took a little adventure as a group. There is a PCV who lives close to Stairway so we planned to take a hike (seriously) to his site at the top of the mountain. Along the way we had to speak Tagalog and interact with the native tribe that occupies the land. The hike was about 1 ½ hours… up a steep trail! We all looked like we jumped in a pool when we reached the top. The PCV who lives there, Trevor, is a rock star for making that trek over and over again. I like a good hike, I actually love a good hike like that but I can imagine it would be difficult to complete over and over again. The view from the top was one of the best I’ve seen here so far! The children who were there were shy at first but then they started to warm up to us, giggle, and run like crazy as we chased them around the school yard. Karen and I were chasing them and she was splashing them with water- they loved it! A little surprise water fight can create so many laughs. Later some of the girls were playing cat’s cradle; boy was I happy that I remembered some of the moves… I played this game for hours on end as a child.

We also got to hear the story of the women who live on the mountain. To make a living, they sell eggplant and other vegetables in the market and they also weave baskets, backpacks, earrings, bracelets and more! To make one backpack- the woman said she worked on it for 4 hours a day for one month! The woman all had such great dedication to their craft and their final products were all stunning- picture perfect handicrafts.

Before we hiked back down the mountain we stopped to see the farm and to eat an afternoon snack. We had planned to just have coconut as the afternoon snack; however, there was a little extra something cooking in the oven. A volunteer who works for Stairway lives at the top of the mountain too and she builds ovens and she is an amazing break cooker, yes… bread. I don’t think I have ever tasted more scrumptious bread in my life. If was fresh from the oven too which made every bite that much more satisfying. Now only if I had some olive oil, sundried tomatoes, and avocado packed in my backpack.

The hike back down was less strenuous. During language camp we liked to end our day with a trip to the beach to watch the sunset, maybe have a beer. After the camp was over, a few of us decided to stay an extra night in Puerto. Trevor helped us to find an affordable place to stay. We stayed at a hostel called Badladz… we were pretty bad, just joking. That morning we had a beer at 9am and hiked down this hidden pathway to find a double sided beach! It was the perfect place to chat, soak of the sun, and go for a dip. Later that day we took a boat to go scuba diving…. Ahhhh! We completed a crash course in scuba safety and learned about the gear and then we were off. The second my air tank hit the water and my body splashed in after, I felt like a fish. I just wanted to swim away and explore but I had to follow instructions from the dive master. We had to pass a three skills test underwater before we could begin our trip under the sea. The trip was grand from start to finish and we even saw a sea turtle along the way. I did not want it to end! The days awesomeness did not stop there because that night we had Mexican food for dinner… like REAL Mexican food with beans and spices and everything nice. After dinner we also went out for a drink to celebrate Amy’s Birthday a little early J. Great day to be alive. The next day we woke up early, went to the beach, ate some REAL pizza at this Italian restaurant where I had to force myself not to buy sausage and cheese by the ton, and then we got on a boat to head back to our homes. That’s all folks! 

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